This Charming Virginia Town Is the Perfect Fall Escape — With Beautiful Foliage, Apple Picking, and Family-friendly Events

Peaks of Otter Winery Aerial View in Bedford,VA

Star City SkyCams/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

I feel fortunate to live in an area where I can savor all four seasons, and although each has its merits here in Virginia, my resounding favorite is fall. As an October baby, autumn always meant an annual trek to the local farm, where my friends and I would take a hay ride, pick out pumpkins, and subsequently carve them at my birthday party. Nowadays, I wax nostalgic at the first hint of changing temperatures as the leaves start to turn gold.

The Bedford Sign on the Blue Ridge Parkway during the fall

Mark Calhoun/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

In an effort to pass those seasonal sentiments along to my Virginia-bred kids (I'm a Pennsylvania native, to clarify), activities like heading to the orchard became an annual tradition for us, and all of our recent memories center around one town: Bedford, Virginia. Although the area is known for several year-round attractions — antique shopping, a vibrant arts community, and the National D-Day Memorial — autumn truly is the best time to explore Bedford. Here are five reasons I look forward to visiting this quaint town in the fall.

Colorful Fall Foliage

Scenic Fall Photo of the National D-Day Memorial with Blue Ridge Mountains

Mark Calhoun/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

As one of the earmarks of autumn in Virginia, the changing leaves are what I look forward to most. Add the Blue Ridge Mountains into the equation, and Bedford puts on quite a show while offering some of the best views in the state. Of course, folks flock to vantage points along the Appalachian Trail and the Peaks of Otter, but there are plenty of other places to see the foliage in all its glory. The National D-Day Memorial, in Bedford proper, is the highest apex in town, where you can admire the warm-toned mountains. Another option is to take a Sunday drive and stop at various overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Apple Picking

Apple Harvest at Gross' Orchard

Micah Pick/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

Bedford is also home to two family-owned apple orchards — Johnson's Orchard and Gross' Orchard — where you can pick apples while peacefully roaming through rows of gnarled, heirloom trees. Whether you're collecting enough to last a week or have ambitions to purchase bushels for pies, take some time to look skyward and soak in the mountainside views. If you wait until late October, picking fruit from the trees may not be an option, but you can still gather fresh apples from the harvesting bins. Bonus: You can also enjoy a hayride and buy apple cider and pumpkins to take home. 


Centerfest in Bedford, VA

Nicole Johnson/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

One of the most anticipated annual events in Bedford is Centerfest, during which the entire town comes out to celebrate. The streets in Bedford's hub close, making room for vendors, live entertainment, food trucks, and a farmers market. Children will enjoy the petting zoo and bounce houses, and adults can peruse the artisan booths. Many local retail businesses, like Goose Creek Studio and Bell Treasures, stay open as festivities continue outside their establishments.

Apple Valley 5k

Local turkey trots may claim the early morning hours on Thanksgiving Day, but if you don't want to get up early on a holiday, participate in the annual Apple Valley 5k through Gross' Orchard. A few years ago, I competed with a group of friends as we dodged cowpies, jumped over hay bales, sidestepped fallen apples, and laughed along the way. If you're in town on the first Saturday in November, it's an exciting way to get a bit of exercise while avoiding obstacles. Another highlight: The first few finishers in each age group receive a coveted handmade piece from Bedford's Emerson Creek Pottery, although there’s no pressure to run fast.

Seasonal Drinks

Peaks of Otter Winery LOVE sign

Star City SkyCams/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

Of course, autumn is known for the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte, but Bedford offers plenty of seasonal beverages for the over-21 crowd. When fall rolls around, Beale's Brewery releases two flavors: Oktoberfest and Spiced Apple Ale. Beale’s is in the heart of Bedford, which is the perfect excuse to visit the downtown area. The Traipse app will further immerse you in the town via a scavenger hunt, or simply savor Beale's upbeat vibe as you sip on brews indoors or out. 

People outside of Beale's Brewery in Bedford, VA

Nicole Johnson/Courtesy of Destination Bedford

There's another worthy option if you visit Johnson's Orchard, as it also houses the Peaks of Otter Winery. Now that my children are all adults, a wine tasting before or after apple picking has become a tradition. You can sample a flight of eight wines — once you see their vast selection, whittling down a list proves difficult. If you're in the mood for seasonal flavors, try Grandma's Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie wines. Strawberry Shortcake is one of my preferred options, and only order Kiss the Devil — a tongue-scorching blend made with 30 varieties of peppers — if you dare. Enjoying a sampling of farm-made wine surrounded by beautiful views is an ideal way to spend a fall afternoon in Bedford.

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